Shakespeare by the Sea: Romeo and Juliet Review

This is my first time seeing something by Shakespeare by the Sea, and my first time actually seeing a show of the famous Romeo and Juliet play. Despite how famous the story of Romeo and Juliet is, I have never actually seen a live performance of it, until Shakespeare by the Sea came around. Shakespeare by the Sea is a nonprofit organization that performs theatrical plays for free in communities around California. Last year, they were not able to tour and perform and they have just started again this summer. I was really lucky in catching this show, as it was part of the 25th anniversary and the last tour with the original founder of Shakespeare by the Sea.

I hadn’t been interested in Shakespeare and had just come along to watch the play because my mom asked if I wanted to. There was nothing I had to do that day, and I had never actually seen Romeo and Juliet yet, so I had no reason not to go see it. I was not disappointed. It was your usual Romeo and Juliet play, following the original story, but I had plenty of laughs and it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of moments, especially in the beginning of the play, that made me laugh out loud and smile. They spoke in the old, english dialect, but I understood it just fine. The actors did an amazing job, in portraying their character, the emotion, and making it fun for everyone. The actors help set up the stage, perform the entire thing, and take it down afterwards. The entire venue is outside and they work and perform for over an hour. The actors and people who work with Shakespeare by the Sea are honestly so amazing and put in so much time and effort in it. 

Shakespeare by the Sea has sparked my own interest in Shakespeare and his works and I am so happy to have been able to see them perform. If you ever get the chance to see one of their performances, I highly recommend going because they work super hard for their productions, and it is completely free to watch them. It is super fun to watch them perform and if you do ever end up going to a performance, make sure to give them a donation for their dedication to performing!

-Nicole R.

Review of Hamilton: Live at Segerstrom

Recently, Hamilton came and performed at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. My parents got my brother, themselves and me tickets to the last show on the final day of their tour. I’ve been a fan of Hamilton ever since my friends and cousins got me into it a few years ago. Ever since then, I’ve listened to the soundtrack, watched the animatics on YouTube, and even got Disney+ just to watch it. But nothing I’ve watched could beat seeing the show live. Seeing the full show in person was a completely different experience than from seeing it through a screen. 

For those who don’t know, Hamilton is a musical based around the life of Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the founding fathers of America. It goes through all his accomplishments and everything he took part in, such as the Revolutionary War and the makings of the financial system in America. However, the musical also shows everything that happened in his personal life, and everything he had done or failed to do. If you haven’t taken a look at Hamilton (the songs or the story or both) I would highly recommend you do.

Despite how many times I listen to the songs, none of the recordings will blow me away in the same way hearing and seeing it live will. All the visual effects and sound effects within the songs created a whole new sense and feeling. You could feel the vibrations of the effects throughout the theater allowing shivers to run through my body. Being able to see and hear all the effects and visuals in person made everything more intense. The actors did a great job, and for the most part, I could understand what they said (probably because I’ve listened to it so many times). The choreography was stunning, the different kinds of lighting was awesome and connected well with the scenes, and the acting was phenomenal. The actors really did an amazing job, and they were very fun to watch. What’s even more exciting when seeing something live, is the fact that no show is going to be the same. The night my family and I went, the cast was different from any of the other days they showed. I won’t ever get to know what the other shows were like, how the characters sounded or anything. I am only going to know what my show was like, which makes the experience feel even more special. 

Hamilton was great to listen to and watch through a screen, but seeing it live was a completely new and amazing experience and I couldn’t be happier to have been there to see it. Once again, if you haven’t taken a look at any of the songs or anything even pertaining to Hamilton, then I would highly recommend you do. It has an impressive soundtrack that somehow manages to tell the entire story, even without hearing the parts in between (especially since the story is told through the music). Even if the music isn’t your cup of tea, just try listening to it at least once. Now, if you do find interest in the musical and end up liking it, I would definitely recommend you to watch the next showing of it whenever they come to your area. Seeing this show live is something you wouldn’t regret if you already like the music.

-Nicole R.

Halloween Escape Room at the Mission Viejo Library

The escape room was on a Saturday afternoon in the Mission Viejo Library’s Heritage Room. The people overseeing the event had set up random images all over the place, some of which were clues that we could use in the escape room. It had an eerie feel to the air, there was haunting music playing in the background and the lights were dimmed to a point where it felt like evening in the middle of the day.

Soon after our group of four people (including myself) had walked in, a man with a British accent started talking, laying down what we were supposed to do: open a box with four locks on it–and we had to do it within the time limit of about thirty minutes. Immediately after he’d stopped talking, everyone began searching for clues. The first thing I ran for was the box with locks. One needed a direction code, one needed a letter code, one needed a number code, and the last required a key. For the lock with a key, there was another box that we had to unlock before we could access the key, so that was one of the trickier parts of the escape room. But then after we figured out the combination, the key didn’t fit in the lock on the box. We had to use the key to unlock a safe that led us to the right key.

The hard part about this escape room was that there were random things scattered all over the place, but we couldn’t tell which ones were clues, or which ones were red herrings, which is a “clue” that’s meant to distract you from what’s actually important. Also, when we asked for hints, they gave their help in terms of rhyming poems, so we sometimes couldn’t figure out what they meant. (And we couldn’t always tell which direction the lock was supposed to go or what order to put the letters or directions in.)

In the end, we unlocked all four locks with two minutes to spare and what was inside the locked box was kind of ridiculous. In the beginning, they said a talisman was supposed to be in the box, so nobody had any idea what to expect. I was just glad that we had managed to open the box at all within the time limit, because I’d never really done an escape room with a time limit before.

Overall, it was a great experience and the clues were very creative. It’s an awesome event for anyone who enjoys puzzles, games, and just a little bit of trickery.

Review of San Francisco Conservatory of Music – Harp Camp

I recently attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s harp camp, and it was absolutely delightful. Given that I don’t live in San Francisco, my family and I flew up for a week, and my brother attended a Golden State Warriors Basketball Academy camp. My harp camp was only for five days, and we met from 12:30-4:30 for five days straight. On the last day, we held a concert.

I have been playing harp for a little while now, and I have played both pedal and lever harps. In my camp, there were a total of nine other people. 7 were on pedal, and 2 on lever, so we had both types. The conservatory provided the harps, which was good, because I didn’t have to bring my harp all the way up there. There was also a wide span of proficiency, but I was happy to note that everyone was very welcoming and supportive. Our program director, Dr. Jennifer Ellis, was also a great teacher, and she hosted a master class with us too, where we would play a solo piece for her and she would critique us.

In terms of the ensemble pieces, we were given them a few weeks before in order to practice. That was one of my only complaints, because the pieces weren’t given very far in advance, and so there wasn’t much time to practice. Additionally, because I didn’t have a harp at the hotel, I couldn’t practice after camp hours, but Dr. Ellis was willing to let me enter an hour before to get some practice in. Of the three ensemble pieces that we were given, there was one piece with three movements, one irish piece, and one classic harp ensemble piece. All pieces had multiple parts, and every person had at least one other person with the same part, so they weren’t playing alone.

Additionally, everyone had the option of playing a solo piece during their concert. Around five people decided to play, and five people opted out, so it was a balanced decision. When the concert came around, everyone played their solo pieces beautifully. There was a bit of time, so Dr. Ellis sat down and played some pieces, which was met with lots of applause, and then we all went on stage and played our ensemble pieces.

In addition to regular playing, we also had fun activities. Every day we would have a workshop after lunch, with different topics. These topics include performance techniques, history of harp, sight-reading practice, and sound effects (my personal favorite). We would also have a eurythmics break for around ten minutes.

Overall, I had a lot of fun at camp. I met 10 other harpists, played in a harp ensemble for the first time, and took a master class for the first time. It was a very positive experience. I only had two complaints – I didn’t have enough time to practice the ensemble pieces before the camp, and my fingers were hurting a lot because of the constant practice that I was doing.

I would definitely recommend this camp to anyone who plays the harp.
~ Kailyn L.

Mission Viejo Library 25th anniversary

Last Sunday, Mission Viejo Library celebrated its 25th anniversary since its opening date in 1997. They decided to host a grand event in honor of its 25th year of opening.

When you first walk in the front doors of the library, they had two tables, one to the right, and one to the left of the double doors. The two tables included many foods, snacks, drinks, and candy for the patrons to enjoy. Many kids were crowded around the delectable treats!

As you continue to walk in, you are able to see a room in which they set aside for board games and puzzles, mostly for adults. As you get into the main hallways in the library, to the left, there is a photo booth where you can snap pictures of this memorable event. They also had super cute props next to the printing paper you can hold up and the background was also pretty, with a ’90s touch to it. My sister and I definitely took more than a couple photos there!

As you exit the photo booth and continue walking, you will see the many craft tables and stations set up for little kids. They had coloring stations and little fortune tellers you could create with the help of a few library volunteers. The bracelets and necklaces were also very cute! Not to mention, they also had a Kona Ice truck outside (one of my personal favorites).

Later on in the afternoon, they had a little karoke/dance in one of the rooms in which all of the hit ’90s songs were playing. Overall, it was a great event that our whole family enjoyed!

Mission Viejo Hosted Open Water Swimming Event

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For the last two years, the City of Mission Viejo and Mission Viejo Nadadores has been hosting open water events for master swimmers and amateur/age group swimmers alike. It was a friendly community event that allowed swimmers to connect and appreciate a new experience of lake swimming.

The event started on a beautiful Sunday morning at around eight o’ clock on the sand next to the lake. Swimmers signed in a check register where they received a masters swimming cap, a ankle chip in which they will track you, and a goody bag that includes gatorade, bodywash/conditioner/lotion/anti-fog remover for using after the event.

Swimmers had a nice little block-out area in which they can warm-up. There were numerous lifeguards and safety crew on deck in case any swimmers got into trouble. Before the races (1 mile, 800, and 400), there were safety meetings in which they talked about the disqualifications and what to do in distress.

There were about 10-12 swim teams in total, and they sent swimmers off in heats. The older swimmers went first (which was the majority of the masters and 13-14 age groups swimmers) for all three races.

I started my event around 10 o’ clock, when all the milers finished their race. Everyone was cheering for one another, and it was a very supportive enviornment for first time open water swimmers.

Although the water was slightly murky, the visibility was still good. The temperature of the lake was at a perfect temperature (above 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and the water was clean from litter and trash. I was fortunate to finish 3rd in my age group, right after one of my team mates (swimmers were given ribbons if you placed top six in your age group).

Perhaps the funniest thing that happened was during the 800 freestyle event for the 11-12 age group towards the end of the race. There was “traffic” out on the waters! A couple of ducks were swimming in the way of one of the swimmers (my sister) while she was trying to sprint towards the finish line.

A lot of people filmed that particular mishap and people clapped for her after she touched the touchpad.

Overall the event was a really great experience for anyone who wanted to try out something different. It was more of a family-friendly event rather than a competitive one. Anyone who wants to try it out next year are all welcome to come!

James Webb Space Telescope: First Images Revealed Event

Launched on December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope (or Webb) has the potential to revolutionize astronomy, astrophysics, and other space sciences forever. Last month, the first images from Webb were transmitted back to Earth, and what they show is astonishing.

On Saturday, August 20, the Mission Viejo Library held the James Webb Space Telescope: First Images Revealed event, which showcased the preliminary images received from Webb as well as a live presentation by NASA Solar System ambassadors alongside expert comments and conclusions from video panelists. 

Webb works by using infrared light (or heat, imperceptible to the human eye), to view and capture images from deep space. This new technique complements the Hubble telescope, but it also allows Webb to see extremely far away at distances over 13 billion years away – nearly as old as the universe itself!

One of my favorite images from the presentation was the Carina Nebula, shown to the left. The James Webb Telescope has captured the first image of a star actually being born in a stellar nursery, confirming scientific theories while also raising new questions about the details of star birth. 

I also liked the picture of the deep space field, shown to the right. Although the brightest stars are “photobombing” the image, since they’re part of the Milky Way galaxy, some of the smaller and dimmer spots are actually never-before-seen galaxies, part of the ancient world formed just after the creation of the universe. The curves near the center of the image also show concrete proof of gravitational lensing (or the curving of space-time as theorized by Albert Einstein). 

Despite all of these fascinating discoveries, Webb is far from finished. Not only is there so much left to be discovered and explained about the images it has already sent, it is projected to last for a decade or longer, so it will undoubtedly unveil more and more about the universe we live in. Overall, I really enjoyed the Webb event, and look forward to presentations like this in the future.

Images courtesy of NASA (nasa.gov)

– Mahak M.

Digital Leadership Workshop Program for Teens

Happy February, everyone! I am Tran Nguyen, a girl scout of Troop 2279, located in Santa Ana, CA. As a senior in high school, I am currently working towards my Gold Award, the highest award in the Girl Scout program.

During quarantine, everything was closed. Due to everything being canceled and closed, we couldn’t earn service hours or perform community service, and this went on for about 6 months. We didn’t know what else to do with our bucket-load of free time that we had during quarantine. We teenagers love spending time on our devices, and our parents couldn’t tell us to get off and do something productive easily. Social media is a HUGE part of our lives. But what if I told you that we, as teenagers, could use social media in a better way?

As a student who has struggled with procrastination and social media addiction from 8th grade to junior year in high school, I understood what it was like to be unproductive and how it was a challenge to balance school, extracurricular activities, and social media platforms. After learning about social media marketing and diving deeper into that skill during quarantine, I was able to find that balance. Knowing how many teenagers also struggle with finding that balance, I wanted to help them through my workshop program.

My online program, the Digital Leadership Workshop, aimed to show and help the teenage population become more aware of how they can use social media as a tool instead of something to waste time on. This program did that by teaching the basic skills of social media marketing — a skill where one could use social media to help other communities, groups, clubs, charities, organizations, businesses, and even grow him/herself to serve the people in his/her community.

The Digital Leadership Workshop taught basic skills of social media marketing including:

  • defining a target audience
  • how to run a business page on social media
  • how teenagers can apply these skills to help others in their community
  • and how advertisements work on social media

While collaborating with the Central Library, I was able to share these skills with up to 10 people, and their awareness about this subject grew from 50% to 85%. I would like to thank the Mission Viejo Library and Mr. Allen Kesinger for giving me the opportunity to share my expertise with the teenagers there. I know I didn’t get much of an audience throughout the duration of my workshop program, but the feedback I received was very insightful. It helped me to become more aware of how I can make the program better for future teenage audiences; I look forward to presenting at more locations.

Thank you!

–Tran N.

For more information, please see the flyer above or click to visit the website.

Event Review:  Holiday Candy Houses

On the evening of Saturday, December 18, 2021 the Mission Viejo Library Teen Advisory Board, which is overseen Mr. Allen Kesinger, the Teen Services Librarian at the Mission Viejo Library, put on an amazing  and fun, family event. The Annual Candy Holiday House Event invited “children and families to build their own cozy cottages of confectionery!”

As we arrived, we were greeted by Mr. Kesinger who showed us the way to the fun!  There were so many different varieties of candies to choose from and to decorate your house with that it was difficult to decide.  Everyone started at one end of the table to collect their supplies for building their Candy Holiday Houses. For the structure of the house we used graham crackers and had the choice of using vanilla or chocolate frosting to construct the walls and roof. There were many candies to choose from to decorate the Holiday Candy Houses including chocolate or peppermint Hershey’s Kisses, multi colored gummy bears, peppermint colored marshmallows, mini candy canes, peach rings, M&M’s, and my favorite of all mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

While the construction of the houses is always fun, another obviously fun part of making Holiday Candy Houses is getting to eat them, which we all did gladly! We are lucky to live in a city that cares enough about our citizens to put on such fun events.  Thank you to our amazing librarian Mr. Kesinger and his Teen Advisory Board for making our Holidays a little bit brighter!

-Brandon G.

Event Review: The Magical Yule Ball

On the evening of Saturday, December 4, 2021 the Mission Viejo Library put on an amazing family friendly event called “The Magical Yule Ball.” The invitation was geared towards families inviting all “wizards and witches…for a delightful evening of crafts, live music, and refreshments.” This event was based on Harry Potter, so I had to check it out!

The event did not disappoint! It started when you checked in and got to pick a house for your group from the sorting hat. My group got Griffindor.  Many of the attendees were dressed up as a wizard or wore festive holiday attire.

As you moved through the stations at the event you were given a ticket after your participation in a craft,  that you would bring to a special table and deposit in your House’s jar to help your House win points.

There were crafts where you could make your very own wand out of sticks and crystals, craft a broomstick from a pencil, paper and string, and a prophecy orb to hang on your holiday tree.

After making all of these great things, our group was hungry so we headed over to the snack tables where we found Hagrid’s Rock Cakes (Nature Valley Granola Bars), Cloud Cakes (Rice Crispy Bars), Edible Flue Powder (Pop Rocks Candy), Licorice Wands (Twizzlers), Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans (Jelly Belly Beans), and Golden Snitches made from Ferrero Rocher candies with little paper wings stuck to them. Of course, there were also bottles of Felix Felici’s Liquid Luck (apple juice) to quench your thirst!

The live string quartet was great and even included a harpist.  They played a variety of instrumentals including lots of holiday favorites.

We are lucky to live in a city that does so much to bring our community together. I highly suggest you check out other events put on in the future by the Mission Viejo Library and other city groups because you will not be disappointed!

Oh, you ask which House won?  Perhaps you should check out this event next year and find out for yourself! 

-Brandon G.